STAFF REVIEW of Dead Space (Xbox Series X)

Thursday, February 9, 2023.
by Chad Goodmurphy

Dead Space Box art Back in 2008, EA Redwood invited us to take a trip amongst the stars as an engineer named Isaac Clarke. It was never billed as a cozy, warm or happy trip, though. Instead, the original Dead Space took us on a journey to the fictional planet of Aegis VII, where the Ishimura – a massive, highly expensive ship that employed many – was busy mining. Isaac was simply the last to learn this.

Upon his unpleasant arrival, Mr. Clarke watches a video message from his beloved girlfriend and Ishimura doctor, Nicole, and has his hopes set on reuniting with her that same day. However, the mining ship is not at its peak, and has become home to long and sharp-limbed creatures known as Necromorphs, due to things I will not spoil here. They’re waiting for Isaac and company as they crash land.

Now, 15 years later – has it really been that long? – EA Motive have resurrected this nightmarish adventure in the form of a Dead Space remake. It’s available for Xbox Series, PlayStation 5 and PC, and is what we’re here to talk about today.

As you probably already know, Dead Space is, at its heart, a survival horror game. In fact, it’s one in which our protagonist (and his surviving allies) attempt to escape from potential death by any way necessary. The problem is that they’re seemingly stuck, have limited options otherwise, and the shit has truly hit the fan.

Like Resident Evil before it, this is a third-person experience in which the player must stalk corridors, investigate different parts of the ship and try to figure out a way to get far, far away from this horrible and nightmarish situation. This involves lots of slow walking, some medium speed jogging and always watching one’s back. You see, you rarely know exactly where a Necromorph – or something just as ugly and dangerous – is going to pop out, and your goal is to obviously kill them before they kill you. The thing is, though, that regular headshots won’t fix the problem as they do in regular shooters. No, Necromorphs die faster when their limbs are severed using one of Isaac’s numerous weapons, including an energy blaster, an energy machine gun, a pressure gun, a line gun, a focused laser beam and something that shoots saw blades.

Using the environment to your advantage is also important in what is a challenging game, and one that doesn’t hold any punches. Sometimes enemies will walk through electrified floor panels or flame geysers to get to you, committing suicide in the process. Those aren’t too common, but other things are. For example, there are blue canisters that can be used to temporarily freeze enemies, along with Isaac’s limited supply of stasis, which is stored in his rig suit. Most helpful, though, are the red explosive canisters that can be found throughout the ship. Picking one of those babies up with telekinesis and then throwing it at an enemy is usually the recipe for a quick kill. So, too, is picking up spear-like implements that can be used to impale enemies, like a javelin.

Of course, this is a survival horror game, which means that supplies are almost always limited. Depending on the difficulty you choose, of course.

As is usually the case in these titles, one must learn to use ammunition wisely and conserve it whenever possible. It’s easy to run out of energy, bullets, saws, or whatever else your favourite weapon uses, so get used to picking the right gun for each situation. Sure, you will find lots of ammo in cupboards, lockers and on downed enemies, but it could be a while before you find the exact ammunition you’re hoping for. This is also true of health pick-ups, which I discovered that this remake is rather skimpy on. Then again, I also had a penchant for buying them every time I reached a store, and spent most of my money on health.

As I said, this Dead Space remake is a challenging game. I can’t say for sure – because I also don’t remember the original being easy when I played it at launch – but it feels like they upped the difficulty here, even on normal. Some folks online mentioned the same thing, and one said he thought it was as if they’d made last game’s Hard this one’s Normal, but I’m not sure. All I know is that the enemies pack a punch, and if you’re hit you can expect to lose a good amount of health. Since health packs are limited and enemies can get the jump on you, it adds up to a challenge at times. That said, I never did run out of health items, though I died a good amount by risking things.

Before we move on, I should talk about the store again. It’s a helpful asset, which is made available through kiosks spread throughout the ship. These are not nearly as prevalent as save points, but they come in handy and usually appear at the best times. This is fact, because you can buy almost anything from the store, be it ammo, health items, suit upgrades, upgrade tokens, weapon upgrades or more. It’s also very easy to sell things to the store for extra money. Granted, in-game currency can be quite limited, but will be a lot more plentiful for those who explore and scavenge as much as possible. Upgrading one’s security clearing and then going into previously locked supply doors is one of the best things you can do here.

There will be lots of opportunity to scavenge and explore around every corner as you play through the 10+ hours of Dead Space (2023). You won’t always like what awaits you around the next bend, though, as it’ll often be a punishing enemy. There are numerous different types, and some are a real pain in the ass, including little guys that crawl on walls and shoot poison at you from exposed tentacles, and monsters who are stuck inside organic walls full of fetid flesh. They shoot out their own tentacles, which hurt you if you’re not quick to destroy them while also worrying about their host.

One’s play time can have a couple of hours added onto it through the game’s several different side missions and mini-games, including a devilish shooting range and zero gravity basketball. There’s also lots of open space to explore while floating in zero gravity, though some of these segments are restricted to bosses and puzzles.

One of the drawbacks here is that the game never really seems to tell you that it’s possible to track different quests. It wasn’t until late in the campaign that I noticed I could track some secondary quests that I’d found. This led me to make a detour for a couple of hours, and involved engaging in three different side quests. One involved completing one of Nicole’s medical bay investigations, another involved finding the origins of a nearly invincible boss who stalks and chases Isaac more than once, and the other had to do with finding different rigs of deceased Ishimura employees. The latter then led to being able to get master security clearance, which would’ve been nice earlier.

In all honesty, the side quests were a bit of a letdown. There’s nothing horrible about them, I’ll admit, but they boil down to fetch quests that have you go from one part of the ship to another and so on. You’re essentially finding something in one room, then using a machine or a voice memo found in another to further your investigation. I’m glad I did them, because one provided some really interesting back story regarding Nicole and Isaac, but they weren’t nearly as good as the core campaign quests.

Completionists can also flesh out this dark, decrepit and nightmarish storyline by finding and picking up text or voice logs. These provide information as to how the Necromorph infestation spread, what was going on at the time and what certain characters did. I tried to find as many as I could, and ended up grabbing around 160 of them.

Moving on, let’s talk about presentation.

Those who played the original game on the Xbox 360, PS3 or PC will know that some of its biggest selling points came in the form of great atmosphere, incredible sound design and excellent visuals. These three things are practically essential when it comes to trying to make a great horror movie or video game, and they were all here from the start. Now, with this Remake – which is two console generations removed from the 2008 original and its sequels (all of which I enjoyed a lot, I must admit) – the folks at EA Motive have upped the ante. While everything looked great on the 360, it all now looks incredible on the Xbox Series. The textures are insanely good, the ship looks amazing, and it all combines into a great mix of realism and nightmare.

Isaac’s suit is a real standout, as were the DLC costumes we were provided with, especially when blood splattered all over them. On top of that, his weapons look great and feature a lot more detail than ever before. You can see the scan lines in his health bar and stasis module meter, the individual wires in certain weapons and all of the different rivets and pieces of metal that make up his suit. It’s really impressive.

Simply put, EA Motive has done an excellent job of remaking this classic for a new generation of consoles and gamers. It’ll really impress you, not to mention folks who usually ignore video games.

You actually get to see Isaac Clarke's face this time around, which is new. He takes his helmet off from time to time, and honestly didn't look like I'd expected. His model did look quite good, though, regardless. On top of this, it also took a bit of time for me to get used to his voice, although it's not like he talks a lot. I wasn't expecting either of these things, but they were nice touches, which contributed to a game full of good writing and voice acting.

This is very much the same game, though, which isn’t surprising since it’s a remake as opposed to a reboot. I will, however, not lie. I must admit that I was hoping for a slightly different experience with some more obvious new content added in, but maybe I expected too much. Either way, I was very happy to revisit one of my favourite games and am glad that they remade it. I would’ve been happier if they’d remastered the trilogy beforehand, though, because it’d be nice to revisit Dead Space 2 and Dead Space 3 (which was a good game!) on newer hardware.

I did, however, have a few technical issues. Things like the game not loading its menus properly the first time I started it, one attempt at loading my save game rendering me unable to move and requiring a restart, and some very, very rare framerate slowdowns. The latter was incredibly mild, though. For almost my entire ten to twelve hours with this thing, it ran splendidly, no matter if I had it in performance mode or not. It truly does look great in 4K and at 60 frames-per-second, so you can’t go wrong with either.

Although I don’t really need to say this, I will in order to bring things to a close: If you’re a fan of survival horror games, you really cannot go wrong with Dead Space (2023). Whether you’re a new fan or a returning veteran, this is a fantastic remake that brings one of the genre’s best games to modern devices. It looks, sounds and plays fantastically well, and is simply the return of a masterpiece.

**Dead Space was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X|S**

Overall: 9.3 / 10
Gameplay: 9.3 / 10
Visuals: 9.6 / 10
Sound: 9.1 / 10


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